The Best Cure for Stress: Open a B&B in Panama

Isabelle and Robert Shahverdians lived and breathed stress and chaos in Los Angeles. Their lives were filled with long work days and long commutes, all to pay for life in the fast lane.

Robert had a catering business, while Isabelle worked in art galleries and museums. During their 20 years in California, they enjoyed “good money, good times, and good business,” Robert says. But into the 21st century, L.A. was changing—it was more crowded and competitive than ever. They became aware of more shootings. And they grew disenchanted with their way of life.

“We worked harder for less,” says Robert. “We thought we could do better, have time for ourselves, and enjoy a better quality and a more natural way of life.”

After a trip to Costa Rica in 2003, they knew they wanted to move permanently to somewhere in Central America. “We missed living in nature, surrounded by nature,” Robert explains. “Central America seemed to have the natural lifestyle we were looking for.”

They explored Costa Rica and considered Nicaragua. But it was after a visit to Panama that they fell in love. Here was a country where people were friendly and newcomers could find plenty of opportunities for starting a new business.

In August 2005 Robert and Isabelle made the leap, renting a furnished three-bedroom home on the town square in Pedasí, about five hours from Panama City.

They paid $100 in monthly rent while they finalized the purchase of a five-acre property with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Although the building process took longer than they expected, they found that building materials were less expensive than in the States and that labor was a fraction of U.S. cost.

According to Robert, you can expect to pay a Panamanian laborer per day about what you’d pay someone per hour in the States. Pay for professional contractors is about $25 or $30 a day and laborers, gardeners, and household help about $15 a day.

Today the couple spend their time running their small bed and breakfast, La Rosa de los Vientos, or “The Wind Rose,” which is walking distance to a volcanic-rock beach with a mostly-local presence.

Instead of competing in the stressful catering industry in bustling L.A., Robert cooks healthy breakfasts of farm-raised eggs, fresh fruit, and local, robust coffee for guests from all over the world.

Instead of rushing to and from work, Isabelle wakes with the sun and enjoys her days in a natural setting, complete with languid sea breezes and the constant chattering of hundreds of birds.

The pair claims that their health is better in Panama. “We don’t get colds or flu. We have a lot less stress. We live more naturally,” Isabelle explains. “We tend to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. We’re more rested overall.”

For those looking to move to Panama, the Shahverdians recommend that you find a place you really love before you decide to hang your hat. “Don’t rush into it. Rent first and get a feel for how people live,” advises Isabelle.

“We got what we wanted. We have absolutely no regrets,” she says. “We hesitated at first, since you’re always afraid to leave everything behind. But we are so glad we moved to Panama. The only regret was that we waited so long.”

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